December 31, 2004

Top 10 of 2004

Now that 2004 is almost gone, I wanted to do a "top 10" of 2004 - not just comics or videos, but just a smorgasboard of personal impressions, excitements, likes and dislikes. Consider this "Gordon's Top 10" of various things, in no particular order:
  1. Logan Anthony Flores, aka the Godson, who's cute, knows it, and is turning out to be a real antiestablishment dude, just like me.
  2. Kinsey - saw this at the St. Louis International Film Festival, before it went into general release, and I think that, craft-wise, it's an easy Oscar sell. However, content wise...dealing with a guy who went where very few people went before in terms of sexuality, and some of the other material, may hinder it. See it for yourself.
  3. Riversplash - of all the 2004 St. Louis celebrations, this is the one I want to see happening on a yearly basis. A series of free concerts on the St. Louis riverfront, followed by a laser/water show, enabled me to see Liz Phair, Doctor John, and BB I said, I wanna see this every year.
  4. DVD Releases of Failed Shows - from Family Guy to Greg The Bunny, from Firefly to The Tick, many shows that didn't get a "fair shake" are now available for rental or purchase.
  5. Kids in the Hall on DVD - Seasons One and Two are available for purchase...and while you're at it, check out my pal Barb's KITH site. You'll thank me for it later.
  6. Getting a Life - I think I'm starting to head towards that whole "balance" thing.
  7. Doctor Who Returns! - And thankfully, there are some people behind it who aren't stuck in nostalgia, but really want to do it right. So, is there anyone out there willing to tape it for me when it comes to Sci-Fi channel?
  8. State Synar Rates - Yes, this is work related, but overall, Missouri's rate of selling cigarettes to kids under 18 (according to the Division of Alcohol & Drug Abuse) is approximately 11% - lower than last year, but plenty of work to do. Plus, five out of seven counties my agency covers are over 90% (the only exceptions being Franklin & Lincoln I said, more work to do).
  9. Fanboy Uproar - right now, my latest spectator sport is reading the comments section at Fanboy Rampage. From Identity Crisis to John Byrne, from women in refrigerators to Bat-arcs, not even massive devastation a continent away will stop these fine individuals from whining about the least important things.
  10. Finally, blogs - if it weren't for blogs, not only would I have discovered some of the workings of my local homies' minds, but was able to find some like-minded people across the nation. It almost makes me yearn for the days of Prodigy Classic....but not by much.

Thanks, and have a happy, safe, and healthy 2005...and don't forget to enter our modest little contest.

December 30, 2004

Paying It Forward!

I have eight - count 'em, eight - Gmail invitations, and I would like to give them to some deserving individual or organization. (Thanks to The Comic Treadmill for inviting me in the first place)

However, I don't want to just hand them off to people for a bribe, or a quick look at my blog, so I'm going to sponsor my own contest. (I tried donating them to Gmail4Troops, but they're not taking donations at this time)

All you have to do is, in 30 words or less, explain why you need a Gmail account, or (conversely) any site/organization that needs an e-mail address. (I have already donated one to a small community organization whose board I serve, right now, I'm more interested in an e-mail going to someone who needs it, rather than someone who wants to be "in the know."

If you can send it to me at the following e-mail address: gordondym (at) eml dot cc by Thursday, January 6th, at 5:00 pm CST, the first eight people to do so get it. I can't think of anyone who doesn't qualify - however, if someone shames me into donating one of them to a worthy cause, I'm more than willing to do so.

December 29, 2004

"So...we meet again...Doctor...

Imagine, if you will, a 1981 Doctor Who Convention in Chicago - groups of people gathered around with the movers and shakers behind the British cult hit. Producer John Nathan-Turner, wearing his deliberately tacky Hawaiian shirts; Sarah Sutton, charming many men present (including a 13 year old me); and Peter Davison, being just affable and swell. Imagine that, at this convention, the premiere of Earthshock...and the total coolness of what happened in the story: the end of the first episode, where an old enemy declares, "Destroy them! Destroy them at once!" to episode two's clever use of past episodes, to the death of a companion in episode four. We were blessed with a gift - Doctor Who, for once, taking its storytelling seriously.

Now, thanks to BBC Video, you can catch Doctor Who: Earthshock in all of its glory on DVD. Of course, now we know this is the first appearance of the Cybermen in seven years (looking a lot more menacing than the silver-painted-wetsuit versin), and that boy genius Adric is the companion who "buys it", dying in an explosion that (thanks to modern evidence) killed off the dinosaurs, paving the way for man's evolution. This is also a story that seems influenced by Alan Moore's work: pulling on then-radical theory, reflecting a more contemporary science-fiction influence (giving us an Alien-esque beginning), ingrating a more cinematic approach (as the documentary Putting the Shock in Earthshock states, there are more than 300 camera shots in this story), and reflecting a more "mature" approach to Doctor Who. It is the only time in the show's history where the final episode ended with silent credits. (There is much debate over this move - after the death of a companion, even Adric, charging off with the theme would seem...even more inappropriate). It's one of a handful of truly great stories during Peter Davison's turn as the fifth Doctor, along with Kinda, Caves of Androzani, and...well, you fill in number 3. (And no, I won't grant you The Five Doctors - it is somewhat over-the-top, but what anniversary program isn't?)

It's a story that gains from its historical context - now, in the era of Internet spoilers and hipper-than-thou fans (and you know who you are), we would learn that the Cybermen were the main antagonist and have public celebrations of Adric's death. (Compare this to JNT's efforts to block off the public gallery at BBC studios, as well as turning down a Radio Times cover to avoid spoiling the shocking surprises). It's also a story that, thanks to the performances, always hits the right pitches. (I'll grant you - Beryl Reid may have been slightly miscast, but even she manages to pull off a good performance). Even the relatively low-budget effects seem rather appropriate (although the DVD does have a CGI option, which helps...but not much). Also, it's a story that is high on action, low on plot...but, in a way, given the context of that first Davison season, it was what was needed.

It is also a sign of things to come in Doctor Who, and that isn't meant as a compliment. Gradually, during Davison's tenure the show began relying more on traditional/familiar monsters and characters. (Contrasted with a focus on new writers, this was bound to end up in a relatively messy procedure). It was contained elements that Eric Saward would repeat in his other DW stories. Instead of becoming a foundation from which to build the program, it became almost a story template - mix in one old enemy with one celebrity-guest star with a minimal plot, and enjoy! It is one of the better stories in DW, and yes, it's become fashionable to criticize...but it's a straighforward yarn, meant strictly to entertain and keep you on the edge of your seat, much like traditional Doctor Who.

One of the best Christmas gifts I received this year...and a gift well worth sharing.

December 26, 2004

Chicago TV: It's a Good Thing

Although there isn't a lot to Chicago that would pull me back (the weather, general rudeness, and political chicanery notwithstanding), I have to admit that I like visiting Chicago strictly for the television choices. Yes, bigger city does equal more channels, but there's always been a strong creative spirit in local programming.

St. Louis...OK, maybe Pete Parisi....but Wild Chicago did it earlier and better. We've had two excellent Bozos, the genius of Ray Rayner, Frazier Thomas, and Bill Jackson (creator of the Dirty Dragon, as well as other memorable characters). Luckily, thanks to a bit of insomnia on Christmas night, I was able to revisit two of my faves.

The first, as always, was Svengoolie - for 25 years, Rich Koz has been making clever, slapsticky humor, making fun of bad horror movies. (And, of course, even if it wasn't nominally a horror flick, there's enough in the movie that was shown to suggest it....Bruno Kirby: scary guy). Other towns may have horror hosts...but it takes skill to pull off what Svengoolie does: take bad movies, mix them liberally with sound effects, song parodies, and a Kovacs-ian wit, and create two hours of late night television anyone can enjoy. (And, of course, Sven put Berwyn on the map thanks to a snarky sound bite). Given that Mr. Koz, sans makeup, hosts "Stooge-A-Palooza" (two hours of the Three Stooges) before Sven, that means he is personally responsible for four to five hours of television. In my opinion, someone needs to give this guy a medal...or, at the very least, a set of Ginsu knives.

Coming of age in Chicago during the late '80s/early '90s meant being on the "ground floor" of the Chicago scene - Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Liz Phair, that lot. (Never mind that the Effigies and Naked Raygun had created a whole punk scene that, given my lack of taste in high school, totally escaped me). Thank God for Jerry Bryant, who looks like Jerry Garcia, sounds like Gerry Todd from SCTV, and for 16 years has dared played "alternative" videos, like "Everyone wants to live forever" by the Flaming Lips, "The Kids are Insane" by Urge Overkill, and "Condoms Are a Girl's Best Friend" on JBTV - starting on access and making his way to UHF. This night was his annual partnership show with MADD, playing alternative videos (i.e, music that might get played on college radio, WXRT, and which makes going to indie record shops an excellent pleasure).

You know, I have written about Chicago television it too much to ask some pioneering spirit in St. Louis to save us from typical network fare, cable access and bad religious programming? (Hey, either you can get the broadcast rights to these shows....or hire me. I'll work very cheap. Honest).

All in all, the best Christmas present a guy could get, other than Nicole Sullivan in a frisky mood.

December 25, 2004

Season's Greetings!

Dorian also gives some excellent last minute holiday shopping tips.

Merry Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and other cool holidays!

December 23, 2004

Take the 2005 Blog THIS Pal Pledge!

Hello, everyone,

Even though we're in 2004, many of you are thinking about the coming year, and it is in that spirit in which I ask you to take the Blog THIS, Pal! Pledge

In no particular order, here goes:
  1. If you live in St. Louis, you will no longer refer to the "World's Fair of 1904", the "Lewis & Clark" spirit, or anything that promotes nostalgia for St. Louis as it once was. Promise to actually get up, get out, and do something to improve the city. Check out the Arch City Chronicle and Arch Pundit if you want to be in the know.
  2. Do what this New York columnist has decided to do. You'll thank me for it later.
  3. For those who are still upset over Identity Crisis, how it ended, or still pitching the whole "violence against women" argument...get over it and move on. It's over. Deal. Life endures.
  4. Support your local comic shops, book stores (especially independent ones), and your public library. They make a difference in your community, and anything that encourages people to read is always cool.
  5. 2005 is my employer's 40th anniversary, and we're pulling out the stops. If you believe in substance abuse prevention and youth, feel free to either support our efforts and/or support local organization in your area with similar ideals. You'll be glad you did. (And if you want to support my employer, e-mail me privately for the info).
Thanks, and to everyone -
  • Merry Christmas
  • Happy Channukah
  • Bountiful Kwanzaa
  • Best of holidays no matter what you celebrate!
Thanks for reading!

December 22, 2004

But I Saw Myself More Jon Pertwee-ish

Yes, it's another one of those kind of posts....

The Fifth Doctor
You are the Fifth Doctor: Your youthful exterior
belies your centuries of experience, and even
you have a bit of difficulty rectifying these
two aspects of your personality. You are
compassionate, introspective, and deeply
troubled by injustice. If you occasionally seem
to display more vulnerability than your
predecessors, it's probably because you're more
openly human than they were. Are your
companions finally rubbing off on you?

Which Incarnation of the Doctor Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

December 21, 2004

Christmas Competition

I was going to make my own contest, encouraging women to send me 35 words or less why they want to date me (along with a photo), but after just doing a radio interview...the goofiness is out of me.

As you've read here before, I'm encouraging y'all to take the Yet Another Comics Blog challenge before the due date.

Also, Beaucoup Kevin (why didn't I blogroll this guy before? He's a genius!) has his own contest.

Mike at the greatest comics blog in the mulitverse also has a contest which is giving away Swamp Thing graphic novels. And kids - Mike giving away Swamp Thing items is like Keith Richards turning down heroin.

Great opportunities for post-Christmas goodies!

December 20, 2004

The Green Hornet!

"He hunts the biggest of all game....public enemies out to destroy our America!"

He's a character in pop culture who, in this blogger's opinion, never really got his due, much like the Shadow and Doc Savage. He has been featured in two movie serials, a television series, a radio show that ran 16 years, and comics (including an interesting take in the late 80's/early 90's. His theme song was even revived by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill. However, the Green Hornet has never received his due, not only as an interesting character, but also as one of the critical links from pulps to pop culture.

He started off as a radio character, created by George W. Trendle as a latter-day Lone fact, this is probably one of the first examples of the "intergenerational" hero ever presented. (Both the Lone Ranger and Green Hornet are separate "franchises", if you will, owned by different companies, so any acknowledgment of one in the other is unlikely). Britt Reid was the great nephew of John Reid, the Lone Ranger, inheriting not only the "mantle of justice" (for lack of a better term), but also a modus operandi. As a masked man, he would often be distrusted, but whereas the Lone Ranger asserted his essential "goodness", the Green Hornet used it as a way to insinuate himself in the criminal underworld, destroying it from within. (As a newspaper editor, I wonder if Britt Reid ever used his influence to kill "bad" stories about the Green Hornet?) His only weapons were a non-lethal gas gun and a car whose engine buzzed - granted, he was no Batman or Doc Savage, but he also was no slouch, either.

As always, the Green Hornet had an assistant - Kato, his Asian valet/driver (although there is an urban myth about Kato's background, to my knowledge, it was never specified on the radio). Early on, he served as a sounding board for the Green Hornet - almost a way for the audience to know what our hero was thinking at any time. (Almost a precursor to Doctor Who's assistant). Later, in the television show, Kato - as portrayed by Bruce Lee - served as a one-man "enforcer", if you will. (Pick up the Green Hornet DVD from Brentwood Video- the closest you will get to an "official" Green Hornet DVD - for more examples). Rounding out the cast were crotchety reporter Mike Axeford and secretary Lenore Case - in short, an almost extended family, some who were in on the secret, at least one (Axeford) who was not.

Speaking of the television series, it is hard to believe that the man who brought us the Green Hornet also brought us the Adam West Batman. (In fact, one episode of the latter included a team-up between Batman and the Green Hornet, with Robin "taking on" Kato. Poor Robin). The tone of the Green Hornet is reminiscent more of crime dramas than campy comic books - in fact, it was a tone that the Batman series should have taken. (In fact, the television Green Hornet had a "friend" in the District Attorney's office, like all good heroes should - none of this "whose side are you on?" nonsense). Whereas Adam West was droll, Van Williams held a steady ground; whereas Adam West gave it a slight twist, Van Williams (as Britt Reid/Green Hornet) played it absolutely wonder it only lasted for one season. People didn't want their action heroes with any sense of realism; they wanted goofball scripts, slightly off-kilter humor, and guest stars as villains. The only other concession to the 1960's was the Black Beauty (a sleek, almost stealthy car with several cool features) and "the Hornet's sting", a combination walking stick/taser/whatever-the-script needed. (Sadly, rumor has it the original films of the Hornet series are gone, and it's doubtful that Fox would even release a complete DVD set of the series).

Why, then, do I think the Green Hornet is such an important character? Like I mentioned, he helped make the link from the pulp adventurers to pop culture. (Although the pulps were an important part, the Green Hornet helped make the leap - if you think I'm joking, just see the Alec Baldwin Shadow movie). He was one of the first truly "multimedia" characters, appearing in mulitple media, and able to carry every one. He is one of the first modern heroes (and I'm willing to take other proposals) to be related to, and perhaps part of, a greater legacy - an idea that eventually filtered its way through modern comics. (JSA, anyone?)

In short, he is the ultimate hero - a crusader willing to bend the line (without breaking it) in order to insure justice. We need the Hornet, now more than ever.

But how do you reconcile a 1960's Green Hornet with a 1930's Green Hornet? The now-defunct Now Comics came up with a clever solution - one was the other's father. Building upon the intergenerational nature of the hero, they suggested that the Hornet mantle was passed down, with newer generations taking up the mantle, putting their own "spin" on the Hornet, etc. (It was an ingenious use of continuity that many comics could learn from). It's also why Kevin Smith is such an appropriate choice for writing the screenplay: unlike Burton's Batman, the Green Hornet isn't necessarily an angst-y character. Smith's tendency towards more dialogue-driven, relationship-based plots seem to fit a hero whose world is defined by his relationships - within and outside the law, his "family" (both extended and biological), and especially with the Kato family. (The comic had a great in-joke relating to the infamous urban myth related above). It's one of those series that is worth browsing through the bargain bins of your local comic store - it may not have been the greatest series, but is a great example of continuity and history being used in the service of the character.

Something most comic companies could learn a lesson from.

December 19, 2004

Page 123 Meme

Got this meme from Jen Contino, a la Yet Another Comics Blog. (How's that for cross-promotion?

What you do is:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the "coolest" book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

From the "big book" of AA
Today's life is measured against that of other years and, when it falls short, the family may be unhappy

I own the book for professional reasons - honest.

Gifts That Keep On Giving

First, get your sorry self into the holiday spirit with these two gifts - one you give a worthy cause, the other two you give yourself.

First, take the
Yet Another Comics Blog challenge, which benefits the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Before you ask - yes, I gave (just a few minutes ago), and if you believe in free speech, you should be guilted enough into doing it.

Secondly, if you haven't already, begin browsing with Firefox and e-mailing with Thunderbird. Both are part of the Mozilla project, and will make your online experience much more productive. (Plus, it sticks it to Bill Gates).

Thanks, and have a great holiday. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a plate of kugelis with my name on it.

December 17, 2004

Identity Crisis - Final Thoughts & Spoilers (long)

As many readers of this blog are aware, I have followed the DC Identity Crisis mini-series from the first issue, providing some speculation (both serious and satirical). However, with the
final issue being published this week (and having read it), here's my thinking....

P the Comic Treadmill I thought Meltzer played fair....until issue # 7. After that, I have to strongly disagree, and felt that the ending was...well, read on.

Despite many inconsistencies (listed here), Meltzer attempted to create a more psychologically "real" DC Universe - give some human motivations to both heroes and villains alike. It seemed that his attempt was to take some of the gloss off, to make it slightly more "Marvel" in tone, if that makes sense. Meltzer also wanted to show how one death impacted an entire "community", and was almost suggesting a conspiracy of villains, creating some unique dynamics. (Issue 2's focus on the old Injustice Gang satellite headquarters, for example). In short, although not a perfect series (and here are all the loose ends that he had forgotten to tie), he came rather close...until issue 7, when (in my not so humble opinion) the ball was royally dropped.

The whole revelation of who the killer was, in my opinion, was lifted straight from B-movie/soap opera cliche; the old "loved-one-of-victim-went-bonkers-to-prove-love" strategy. It didn't make sense - psychologically, narratively (what evidence was there, aside from the "autopsy" in issue 6, to suggest it?), or emotionally. It was a payoff straight from a Syd Field screenwriting workbook. The final half of the book - showing the immediate "moving on" montage also seemed a little too Hollywood, claiming that an era had been ended and finishing with a "cute" (but altogether creepy) moment. In short, betraying everything that the previous issues had suggested. Going for a curve ball than a line drive.

Of course, I have said this on other blogs - the only reason, I suspect, that many people didn't like it was not due to the quality of the storytelling, but to actually make the DC Universe a little more "adult." The same fans who won't look at a work critically (like, say, any of the comics on my blogroll), but who would rather keep (now) outdated storytelling notions than encourate creativity. It's the kind of thinking that has led to some really misguided ideas (John Byrne's Doom Patrol, which achieves Shatnerian levels of discomfort while reading), that doesn't allow for any mature or adult criticism, and whose idea of rhetoric seems to be "Meltzer's a Misogynist."

It seems lately, some fans don't want a 21st Century DC Universe - they want their comics to be just like they were when they were young, only with hipper references. In short, they don't want comics to grow up. Say what you will about Identity Crisis - it's not a perfect mini-series, by any means, (nor is it the Watchmen of the 21st Century, but it got people talking, and engaged
people - good or bad, IC attempted to rethink the way the DC Universe is portrayed. In my opinion, Meltzer did his best, but messed it up at the end with a less-than-original ending.

(By the way, for any of you who argue the Meltzer-as-Misogynist theory - I'm sure that you enjoy Britney Spears for her musical talent, enjoy Hooters for the food, and have never purchased more than one copy of Witchblade. Rather than attack the work, you will make ill-founded attacks on the author. Usually, that's not a good idea - and here are some interesting ways not to argue. I admit my previous comment was slightly snarky, but I am not as high-minded as, say, Post-Crisis and Fanboy Rampage. And please - don't start whining about DC Countdown/Crisis 2/Whatever until the book actually comes out and you've read it - only the Internet allows people with a minimum of knowledge [even me] to act as if they are experts.)

Enough with the resentments - it's time we all did what normally happens when things like this end: move on. Let's all just take a deep breath, step away from the keyboards, and enjoy the holidays. Maybe even read a book - you know, those things that are like comics, only they have all words and no pictures....

Let's all sit, have a nice cold up of egg nog, and enjoy the holidays.

December 16, 2004

Sound Salvation That's Cleaning Up the Nation

First, a shout-out to Dave for picking up the Christmas Song meme from my previous post.

Maybe it's the fact that I bought a new stereo, or maybe the radio station in Chicago that played old radio shows when I was a kid...but I love old radio shows. Audio dramas. A time when the most cutting edge technology took ten to fifteen minutes to warm up, and which dominated households everywhere.

Well, thanks to the guys at Boing Boing, you can listen freely to Sherlock Holmes and other old radio shows. (My personal fave was X Minus One, a really cool sci-fi anthology show).

Coming soon to this blog: my Green Hornet appreciation and my final thoughts on Identity Crisis.

[EDIT - had forgotten to put in BB's link; did so at 1:30 pm on 12/17]

December 14, 2004

It Was Joyful AND Triumphant, Par-rum-pum-pum-pum

First, kudos to anyone who can publicly name where I got the above title. Hint - it's somewhere on this blog.

Anyway, after two back-to-back meetings this afternoon, one in College Hill and the other in north County (meaning non-stop travel), I ended up coming home, taking a brief nap, and getting all dolled up for the River City Professionals event. I have to admit that I don't make them as frequently as I should - I'm not really a business guy, and my Tuesdays are often filled with board and/or work-related meetings - but I needed to go desperately. I was forgetting that there was a world outside of my office, women to flirt with, men to network with, and good times to be had.

The highlight was a White Elephant Gift Exchange - you wrapped some old (PG-13 rated) gift, included your business card, and at the right time, began exchanging gifts, switching with other people and making the rounds. After a half hour of exchanging gifts, including a last-minute switch, I received what I believe is the greatest gift a guy like me could get.

A Viagra clock. That's right - a small desk clock shaped like the little blue pill. The kind of thing that, given the work I do, would royally annoy my coworkers both in a good and bad way. I had traded a lamp for it, but I'm glad - now, I have something that's kitschy, tacky, yet somewhat more manageable.

Sometimes, it totally rocks to be me.

December 13, 2004

Cool Christmas Tunes!

OK, so I kinda sorta borrowed the idea from a post in Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin, but I've been playing tons of Christmas MP3s (burned from CDs for my own listening pleasure. Feel free to add your own recommendations! Make it a meme! Or something

Twelve Days of Christmas - Bob & Doug Mackenzie
Give the Jew Girl Toys - Sarah Silverman*
Channukah Song - Adam Sandler*
Back Door Santa - Clarence Carter
Jesus Christ - Big Star
Nutcracker Suite - Beavis & Butthead
Jingle Bells - Simpsons (featuring Robert Goulet)**
Santa Claus - the Sonics
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight) - Ramones***
Santa's Beard - They Might Be Giants***
Merry Christmas, Baby - Otis Redding
Night at the Opera - the Groucho/Chico "sanity clause" exchange****
There Ain't No Sanity Clause - Damned ****
Zat You Santa Claus - Louis Armstrong
Let it Snow - Dean Martin
The Lonely Jew on Christmas - South Park
2000 Miles - Pretenders
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - U2
Father Christmas - the Kinks
You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Christmas in Heaven - Monty Python
We Wish You A Merry Christmas - John Denver & the Muppets
White Christmas - Frank Sinatra
Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
Run, Rudolph, Run - Chuck Berry
Christmas With the Devil - Spinal Tap

Now, all I need is a copy of Graham Parker's "Christmas is for Mugs", and I'll be happy


*'Cause you gotta show the Hannukah set the love
**You haven't lived until you've heard Mr. Goulet croon, "Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg; Batmobile broke a wheel, Joker got away"
***Mike had these on his list, too
****Marx first, then Damned - Killer combination, dude

December 12, 2004

Adventures in Advocacy

You know, in the same way that Polite Dissent focuses on medical aspects in comics and pop culture, I would like to think this blog focuses on more social service, substance abuse, warm and fuzzy matters. For example, I've always thought that a great take on Hourman would be a super hero version of Stuart Smalley, but done straight, focusing on co-dependency issues. (Yeah, like DC is going to call me to cash in on that idea - and John Byrne, if you steal this idea in any way, I will sue your tuckus off)

Anyway, I've spent most of this weekend resting and recuperating - most of my job involves motivating people to advocate for substance abuse prevention-oriented policy initiatives. Mostly in tobacco, which has earned me many enemies and causes great discomfort with my friends. No, not that they're all smokers, but if you're enjoying a beer and a cigar, and you're talking to someone who works to prevent kids from using those drugs...makes it very hard to be social, much less get a date.

Thursday was a coalition meeting that I co-chair, and was filled with some great ideas (and sharing of strategies) in terms of engaging individuals. Of course, there is the one guy, the guy from Nowheresville, MO, with a few successess, playing Mr. Know-It-All with people who are power hitters. That, plus dealing with a person who...well, wants to take it to the next level, despite the fact that the incoming state government might not be as friendly as we would like. Even with a state expert giving me back-up, well, I've had more productive arguments with Little Debbie snack cakes.

Then, on Friday, was a training at our office (and for those whom I work with who may be reading this - it's all in good fun. Honest) focusing on advocacy. It went very well - focused on some really cool things like open container law, traffic safety, and other things, but I have to admit that I was a little burned out on the whole advocacy thing.

However, I saw that a letter I had written to the St. Charles Post-Dispatch was published. Even with the feedback from my coworkers and colleagues, it felt a little hollow - maybe it was some burnout, or just the comment from someone that my letter was "too calm." (I guess if I had referred to our opponents as "mouth-breathing monkey boys", that might have been seen as appropriate). Oh, well, it was nothing that watching The Office Christmas Special, followed by Justice League: The Brave and the Bold couldn't cure.

And now, here's a plea - if you want to help out, and live (or know someone) in the vicinity of Ballwin, MO - they're holding a city council hearing to vote on their smokefree workplace ordinance. The meeting is at 7:00 pm at the Municipal Clerk's office. Bodies are good; residents who can speak on either side is better. If you need help, either drop me a line, give me a call, or check out the Community Tool Kit for resources.

Ah, advocacy - it's definitely not for wimps. (And to those with whom I work - everything is said tongue-in-cheek, except for the Nowheresville comment)

December 11, 2004

David Brent: Man of the Year

I have to admit that, of all the things that I have experienced this year, there is one - a television show, an out-of-nowhere cult hit, that has gotten my attention. It's a show that has received a Golden Globe, has gotten much word of mouth, and has given me a greater respect for comics writer Will Pfeiffer (not that I didn't have it already...)

I'm talking, of course, about The Office. Half "Mockumentary", half non-traditional sitcom, it features the goings-on at Wertham Hogg, a fictional British paper company, and its mostly unusual boss, David Brent. Thanks to Netflix, I am enjoying the "Christmas special", made three years after the series. (The above link will get you a copy of both seasons, the special, and some other bits).

The series has almost all the cliches of an office show - the receptionist, the sweet worker, the semi-tyrannical second-in-command, the obnoxious salesman - but what makes it work is that it avoids all the typical sitcom cliches. (Of couse, NBC is "adopting" the show, changing it for an American audience. Hopefully, since the cast includes Jenna Fischer, who wrote and directed the hilarious Lollilove, it should be) This is a show that dares (as many good British shows do) to go into the uncomfortable places, and finds humor not in overexaggerated behavior, but in the subtle silences, in the nuances, and quite slightly less-than-perfect behavior.

All of the characters sparkle - David Brent, who is the boss who has read one too many "business leadership" books; Tim and Dawn, a couple that should-be-but-can't (and trust me, having been in that kind of relationship myself, it is drawn very realistically), and Graham, who once admitted that he was thinking if there was a boy who could swim faster than a shark. (Don't ask). The writing, acting, performances, etc. are all top notch, and I defy you not to laugh at all of this. (It also, quite smartly, ended after two years, easily avoiding jumping the shark)

And so, in this blogger's eyes, David Brent deserves the title "Man of the Year." This is one of those hidden treasures that, hopefully, will not remain hidden for long.

December 10, 2004

Charged with a sacred quest...

Because I can't think of anything to post

You are King Arthur of the Britons! You let no-one stand in your way, you are brave and strong! Keep searching, you'll find the grail yet!
You are King Arthur of the Britons! You let no-one
stand in your way, you are brave and strong!
Keep searching, you'll find the grail yet!

Which Monty Python & the Holy Grail Character are you REALLY?
brought to you by Quizilla

By the way, for archived wacky fun, head here

December 7, 2004

Holy Roman A Clef!

Make sure Adam West doesn't hear of this...

EDIT: Whoops, forgot to cite that it's from the Accordian Guy's blog, a blog chock full o'good stuff, and worth multiple visits.

December 6, 2004

The Best SNL Movie Ever Made

Impending holidays always mean one thing - family blow outs. (At least, in my family they do). In these times, you owe it to yourself to engage in the one true treasure of the late '90s SNL-skit-to-film phenomenon, the only real cinematic classic out of all of these.

I'm talking, of course, about Stuart Saves His Family.

That's right - Stuart Smalley himself, as portrayed by Al Franken before he became the guy who lied about the lying liars and the lies they lied when they lied down. Directed by Harold Ramis (aka, the Ghostbuster who wore glasses), the movie is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, but is a comedy with heart, soul, and insight. (Of course, those of you who are in 12 Step groups like AA or Al-Anon will really enjoy the film). Unlike other SNL derived films, it's not a one-joke movie; it's a movie that could have easily failed miserably, but shoots for a knowing humor. It's the kind of movie that has a tone which straddles the line between comedy and tragedy - much like life.
(It's also a comedic counterpart to When a Man Loves A Woman, the Meg Ryan/Andy Garcia romance that shares insight into recovery issues, and is a great date movie, ironically enough)

The acting is also excellent, most notably in the supporting roles - you can easily see how Laura San Giancomo went from Sex, Lies, and Videotape to Just Shoot Me. (Her ability to play drama and comedy simultaneously is a charm). In addition, Vincent D'Onofrio (aka, the guy I want to play me in the movie of my life) excels as the pot-smoking unemployed brother who has his own moment of sanity. Shirley Knight portrays a mother who carries the weight of the family on her back, and who seems resigned to her fate.

Ironically, the movie ends at Christmas - I won't tell you how it ends, but you deserve to see this film. Like the best films, it ends honestly, and not in some overscripted climax, and that's the best compliment I can give the film.

And it's probably the only time Al Franken didn't get on my nerves.

December 5, 2004

Adventures in Blogging

First, wanted to give a shout-out to Mike's Progressive Ruin, which celebrates its first birthday (and is better toilet trained than my godson. You all know how I feel about this site.

Speaking of blogging (and comics), the Accordian Guy has tracked down this 1950's blog reference. Trust me, kids, it's history, and you should know.

Also, Ian Brill is onto something - let's call Marvel right now!

Both Yet Another Comics Blog and Polite Dissent are doing the comic advent calendar thing, and I am proud to have made a small contribution.

Ringwood gives me a good reason to dislike John Byrne (not that I needed any more, mind you...)

A huge shout-out to my homie Ajay, aka the Idle Muser, on his upcoming nuptuals (and if my behavior at my pal Terry's shindig was any indication, my mojo is coming back in full force).

Finally, just a heads-up on a movie you should avoid like the plague - Saved. Although the premise seems interesting (Heathers done in a Christian school), it quickly degenerates into a preachy, h-let-go-of-your-sanctimoniousness-and-really-be-God-like shambles.(Hear that? That's the creaking of the writing, moving towards the obvious conclusion) Only the stereotypical bad girl rises above cliche, and gives the movie a little heart. Whenever I hear a conservative complaining about liberal bias, I usually dismiss them - however, I will give them the benefit of the doubt with this movie.

In other words, I owe my pal Mark a deep apology.

December 4, 2004


I have to be honest - I'm definitely a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/December holidays.

It's not that I never got what I wanted as a kid - I was spoiled materialistically. (Being an only child helps). It has just seemed like the majority of bad/unpleasant things that have happened - mostly losing people and major life transitions - have always been in December. (OK, I once experienced a breakup on Valentine's Day, but other than that...) Plus, with the way my family treats Christmas - less like a time of celebration and goodwill and more like the invasion of Normandy - it can bring a guy down. Seriously down. Close all the shades and crank up the Joy Division kind of down.

However, things seem different - maybe it's the fact that I'm watching SCTV on DVD as I'm hanging my (somewhat minimal) Christmas decorations. Maybe it's something in the air, or maybe it's just the year I've had...but somehow, I'm really starting to get into the Christmas spirit. I'm starting to feel better about the impending holiday. I may even break out some Christmas tunes. I may, at some point, list the tracks on an Xmas CD I burned for pals.

And if some of you are really nice, I may send you (upon request) a Gmail invitation.

December 3, 2004

Boldly Going...To A Great Place!

Earlier tonight, I was hanging out with some new pals I met through Nanowrimo, and - luckily - the proprietors of Maurizio's decided to turn the television on to Star Trek: Enterprise. Now, I admit that I have had my concerns about the show - and was even slightly thrown when commenting on this post at Polite Dissent, but I have to admit that tonight's episode...has given me renewed faith in the franchise.

Now, sure, it was not the return of Gene Roddenberry as we know him, but tonight's episode, in one hour (including commercials) managed to regain the elusive quality of Trekkiness. In this past half year, we've seen alien Nazi's, a transition episode, and Brent Spiner dining on scenery - yes, friends, tonight's episode reaffirmed my faith in Trek.

It had it all - starship battles, sharp characterizations, and hints of both TOS and TNG (at the end, and no, I ain't gonna spoil it for you). It was one of the more strongly written Treks to be seen in a long time...and boy, did we deserve it.

Now I honestly can't wait until next week.

Taking A Swim in Lake Me

...or "enough with the pop culture shtick; tell us how you really feel..."

This has been a really rough week - mostly because of this upper respiratory thing that I have. I've been coughing, sniffling, had an extremely painful earache...I'm starting, however, to get better, and to feel a little bit more like my usual self.

Luckily, most of the PITA aspects of my life have taken an almost miraculous turn for the better.

My continually flat tire...turns out, just a nail. Simple in-and-out, no new tire, no new rim.

My cell phone, turned off due to a billing mistake? Back on, thanks to my ranting and raving.

An upcoming project, which usually makes my life hell. It looks much, much better this time...although there's still potential for evil.

I also have to admit that I need to reengage socially, to get out of the house - luckily, this weekend can be the start of my reemergence. I'm also grateful that a pal of mine is getting married on January 1st (and Idle Muser, if you're reading this, give me a call, dude). I also need to start calling my friends and, like, not using them just for trivia nights.

Some old heartaches I'm still holding on to, for some perverse reason, like wanting them will result in me having them. However, only time and letting go will take care of them.

So much to do, so much to blog about - comics, movies, CDs, DVDs, and even an upcoming Green Hornet appreciation. For now, though, just simple gratitude that I have a stronger work ethic than some of my co-workers, that I have a great life, that the best is yet to come...and that I'm not Corey Feldman.

December 1, 2004

In Lieu Of Original Content

Sorry, been feeling a little out-of-it, so here are some really cool things from the blog-o-sphere...

First, a really cool article on fanfic from Something Old, Nothing New. Like I have said before, this is one of the better pop culture blogs out there, and there's a little something for everyone.

Head here, and you can download a little ditty entitled "FCC Song" from Eric Idle of Monty Python. (Yes, there's probably a more direct link, but I'm too tired to dig). Be warned, the MP3 is very Pythonesque in humor, so if you're easily offended, my advice is to buy more Jessica Simpson CDs and leave the rest of us alone.

Also, you might want to check out this site on Technorati - it lists the "top MP3s listed in the past 48 hours". You can find stuff ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Noam Chomsky on a given night. Well worth your time.

Finally, check out Digitally Obsessed for DVD reviews - it's one of the more comprehensive review sites, and the writers often know what they're talking about. Enjoy!