Last thought for the evening

Loading up a few MP3s to listen to in bed, I was looking for an episode of VIC AND SADE I vividly remember hearing recently ("Jack Dempsey & Gene Tunney Meet In A Cigar Shop") when I realized I hadn't heard the story at all; I read it online nearly two weeks ago. Dunno if that's testament to Rhymer's writing or my imagination, but it strikes a feller funny either way.

Saturday Night At The Movies: Still Sick, Still Surveying Spooky Cinema



I'm sure it's still considered cool to shit on Ed Wood's movies, but the man had his undeniable moments of grace: The first shot of zombie Tor Johnson rising out of his grave in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is the kind of moment that would still scare old women and children and make rational adults uneasy today if the film before it was as effective as that shot is.

My headache is still too strong for me to hammer this thought into a better shape, but I think there's some class/money distinction that fuels the Wood hate, at least its first generation or two before "Ed Wood Made The Worst Movies Ever Made" joined "CITIZEN KANE Is The Greatest Movie Ever" and "CASABLANCA Is Not Just A Well-Made Romantic Weepie" as cinematic fact. Wood may very well have been an incompetent filmmaker, but money can cover and fix many a failure in competence.

Wood takes a lot of criticism for being a one-take wonder, but it seems to me that his movies suffer more from a lack of coverage than the mistakes in a given shot. More times than not, what makes me wince and/or laugh is the shot that doesn't belong in the flow of a scene but is probably there because Wood literally had no other piece of film to [mis-]match shots.

As a writer, Wood's brain was probably bigger than his eyes; non-literary science fiction is almost defined by improbably cosmic ideas and dialogue no human being would or even could speak [see also: Jack Kirby, George Lucas, H.G. Wells, everyone else -- you cite an example of sci-fi with natualistic dialogue, I'll call you a whore-fucking liarpants], but the delta between Wood's ideas and his budgets was so wide it was profoundly foolish of him to pursue them with such gusto. The American audience can easily forgive a filmmaker's lack of enthusiasm but not a lack of budget.

We should all be a little sad that the lesson most people take away from Ed Wood's life and career [especially the assholes who program and produce film festivals] isn't that you shouldn't let your financial situation and lack of significant institutional/professional support from pursuing your art and passion.

One of my many examples of how film festivals are all programmed by failed filmmakers is that not one of the festivals that revel in/exploit Wood's legacy with new films actually take up the challenges he faced: For example, in PLAN 9, Wood had three weeks and four days shooting time and a total budget of about $450,000 in 2010 dollars, a half-reel's worth of shots of a now-dead lead actor and the need to write/produce/direct a feature-length horror/sci-fi story that wouldn't offend a Baptist congregation too deeply. No filmmaker would dare it, but there are at least two Wood-themed fests where random fuckwits make intentionally bad short movies to celebrate Wood's legacy.

Ed Wood's movies are bad but no worse than any other B-movie of that period -- isn't it funny how so many of the movies dismissed as turkeys were made outside the studio system by creators in no position to make life difficult for the tastemakers [see virtually every first movie made by the Film School Generation for Roger Corman's production company; turkeys one and all] -- few of which have the passionate, genuinely unique signature that Wood gave to his movies.

Saturday Night At The Movies: Sick, So Surveying Spooky Cinema

I have one asskicking migraine this evening, so I'm staying in and watching crappy spooky movies with my glasses off instead.

Just watched Roger Corman's A BUCKET OF BLOOD for the first time in forever. It's exponentially better than its budget normally promised or demanded, but somehow its 66 minutes still drag a bit. I can't decide if it's just too little plot for a feature [we all see where the story's going after the second murder, right?] or if the film's mise en scene is just too flat to let things build properly. Still, it's nice to see Dick Miller in a lead role for a change, and I love the poetry-in-jazz character's Monte Wooley cadence and beard, and that he wears sandals with a tuxedo.

Next: Deciding if I'm really desperate enough to pay $2.50 for a 2-liter of [headache-easing] Diet Pepsi with a delivered pizza, then PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, maybe followed by THE PUMPKIN EATER if it's not too scary.

[The last joke goes out to all nine friends of mine who get it without consulting with IMDB first.]

Friday Night Fights: Why I'm Not 100% Into MMA. Yet.

I know that Mixed Martial Arts has come a long way since its unrulier and gayer years, but this is still the sort of fight I think of when I think of MMA. This and that fight between a blonde Japanese dude and a guy who looked like Sgt. Slaughter's shorter, pornstached little brother. You know the one, I'm sure; it was a Thing on the Internet for almost a full day once.

Anyway, this fight would be awesome if it had been cockpunching instead of cockrubbing, and it all took place in two minutes instead of almost 20.



Since a few people have asked: I've been spending my boxing time digging into financial reports for some cards, not watching the sport; I know I haven't missed much.

We should all publicly give Shannon Briggs his props now for sustaining 12 full rounds of undoubtedly brain-damaging punches from Vitali Klitschko, as he doesn't have long before he won't be able to remember or understand the concept of "props." What a brave, tough corner Briggs had! I assume the referee took a cigarette break outside during the final half of the fight, which is the only explanation for why a one-sided beatdown could have made it past the seventh or eighth rounds.

Predictions for the rest of 2010's pick 'em fights:

Allan Green vs. Glen Johnson -- The comics nerd will choke again, so the old man takes it if he can really drop down to 168 without destroying himself.

Sergio Martinez vs. Paul Williams -- As much as I love Martinez, Williams does a remarkable job of learning from his mistakes [ask Carlos Quintana], so, assuming Williams and/or his camp acknowledge that Martinez really was the one who barely won the first fight, Williams should have the payback momentum behind him. Also, Williams didn't look so hot against Cintron before the bizarre stoppage, which should also add to his hunger. I wouldn't be surprised if Martinez is still flying high after beating Pavlik and perhaps not taking the fight as seriously as he could.

Arthur Abraham vs. Carl Froch -- Abraham will wreck Froch in exchanges more than the other way around. KO before the championship rounds.

Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana -- Khan has a great jab, Maidana has a puncher's chance. Either a late TKO or UD for Khan or a KO for Maidana.

Yonnhy Perez vs. Joseph Agbeko and Vic Darchinyan vs. Abner Mares -- I don't know as much about the current batamweights as I'd like, but I would guess Perez and Mares win by decision.

Jean Pascal vs. Bernard Hopkins -- the old man gives another clinic in how to beat-ugly a younger, sloppier champion.

The Grammar Nazi, Part Three: Deciding on Singular vs. Plural

When in doubt, replace the noun with its pronoun and see if the sentence reads naturally:

"Warner Brothers [one company, so the pronoun would be "It"] is releasing that DVD on October 29."

"The Warner brothers [multiple brothers, so "They"] were douche bags."

"My favorite baseball team [one team, "It"] might win the World Series! Its [the team's, singular] shortstops [multiple ballplayers, "they"] are the best, but their batting averages [multiple averages, "they"] are for shit."

The Fantastic Four is a team and a funnybook series, but three of the Fantastic Four [three of them, plural, so "they"] are holding a meeting at five o'clock Friday in the Baxter Building.

Thursday Afternoon Movies: IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD

You probably loved this movie when you were 8; it's the proto-MST3K homage/savaging of scads of crappy drive-in/exploitation B-movies, IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD.

I've often wondered about the making of the film, which stars an odd mishmash of Cheech & Chong, Not Ready For Prime Time Players Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner and SCTV alum John Candy. I don't know who I would pick out of early '80s Hollywood's comedy pool to host these segments -- well, Cheech & Chong are a gimmie on the marijuana-scare films -- but it's still a random bunch of comedians. Aykroyd is a well-known supernatural devotee, but was John Candy really that into GLENN OR GLENDA, or did he pick the short straw?

In retrospect, the new bits and one-liners aren't as funny as you remember and it turns out [all glory to the DVD making it cheap & easy for studios to release virtually every film in their archives, no matter how bad] that some of the movies aren't as bad as the clips in ICFH suggest -- then again, MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 did raise the bar sky-high, even retroactively, so we shouldn't be so mean.

Also, this film should be considered, the Medveds and their books be damned, as ground zero for Ed Wood's rebirth as a schlock visionary. Take that however you'd like.

Enjoy:



ps. I would say that ITFH certainly aged better than MAD MOVIES, but MM was terrible even back then.

Brunch with more cartoonists.

A vegan Reuben at Paradox on Belmont. It was good, but tasted exacty like the vegan Reuben I had in St. Johns' dirty-hippie cafe a few months back. Then, cats at Andrice & Jesse's place.

The 22nd.

Fall leaves, giant cabbages, shiny faux-avoados.

The 15th.

Doozer on the fridge.

Holy Fucking Shit: Paul Rhymer Sorta Predicts The End in 2012 Too

For a quick shot of fresh-to-me VIC AND SADE goodness, I went to PaulRhymer.net's scripts page and happened across this 1935 script, in which 10-year-old Mr. Rush Gook of Virginia Avenue [Bloomington, IL] prognosticated his entire high-class lifetime up to his death at age 87 in 2012. Things like this scare me far more than that Mayan-calender bullshit.

[Bill Idelson, the child actor who played Rush, beat his character's lifespan prediction by a year, actually did take at least one year off to vacation in Europe, and eschewed medicine and politics for a career as an A-list TV-comedy writer/producer and part-time actor [THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, GET SMART, THE ODD COUPLE, HAPPY DAYS, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW] and an autumn-years side-career as the greatest writing teacher the world has ever known.]

Sunday Morning Mystery: The Curious Case of the Familial Dystopia Cafe

For a brief time after my arrival in Portland, I relied on Google Maps' links to reviews of the restaurants in my neighborhood when I wanted to try a new-to-me joint. Then I hit a hot streak of user reviews that made the entire Sunnyside district sound like the streets were flooded with fresh vomit -- even the strongest gondolier wouldn't be able to get you from the Fred Meyer on 39th up Hawthorne to the Safeway at the top of the hill during the lunchtime rush, with all the people between the two stores barely taking a few steps from the terrible restaurant they just ate at before they threw up their entire meals -- and so I stopped reading online reviews of local restaurants.

But I kept a bookmark for this review, which contains an amusing moraine terminus of what sounds like one delightfully fucked-up family story:



Portland seems to be a city of restaurateurs whose endless supply of early joy and enthusiasm is only matched by their quick sourings on the enterprise and inexhaustible volumes of profound resentment while they wait for their leases to run out. I've encountered more than a few owners of restaurants on the skids in the past, but only in PDX have I talked with owners/managers who came off like jealous ex-girlfriends at the merest hint that I've ever eaten at another restaurant at some point in my life. I bring this up to try to ground the reviews in some context; it's no surprise that the earlier reviews present a far sunnier picture than the shit & garbage shop of more recent reviews -- and I must give this cafe its due props for having no reviews that recount a staff member or the owner intentionally trying to trip one of their customers, something I've read about at two separate [but now closed] establishments! There are some superbitchy foodies in this town, but it's fascinating to track the slow rot and collapse of these places in their online reviews.

So, the Utopia Cafe was bought at some point by a woman named Valerie; my Google Fu fails in pinpointing when the change in management occurs, but the Cafe's reviews are generally very good for several years.

[By the way, I've never eaten at this cafe and don't know anyone involved; this is pure Internet rubbernecking, my friends.]



Nothing out of the ordinary here ... at least, the first time one reads such comments about this place ... as every waiter/waitress can have a shitty day. I include this review here just because I adore the phrase "remarkably unfortunate beige sweater."



And Then, Pandora's Box was Opened, And Lo, All The Multitudes Then Assumed That The Few Positive Reviews This House of Bad Service Received Were Also Written By Its Employees. And Thus It Shall Ever Be, Forevermore.



I should have split these two up, but life's too short. The top one is edutational in the context of all the reviews beforehand that mention the length of the waiting list to eat there on the weekends.

And then, things get weird: Valerie's mother supposedly posts a vaguely creepy note to her on her birthday?! Somehow, I don't think knowing more context here would help make sense out of it, especially after reading the review below [with user comments]:




I don't know where [or even why] to start with this one, other than to point out that it was posted on the same apparent-birthday date as the mother's post the year before. I'm tempted to schedule a reminder on my calender for 03/03/11 to check the reviews again to see if Valerie's father or grant aunt or whatever posts another TMI review.

This is exactly what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind when he proposed the World Wide Web: The National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook as a template for a textual reality show partially buried in a few pages of restaurant user comments.

The Grammar Nazi, Part Two: Tactical vs. Strategic

I wish this was printed out and placed directly in front of all television sportscasters and war correspondents:

"Tactical" is fighting a battle or skirmish [how you win an inning, a quarter, a round, etc.]; "Strategic" is fighting the overall war [how you win the game].

I remember this one as "You have to [t]act[ical] right in the first place if you want to [st]rate[gic] at the end."

Pre-Halloween Public Safety Reminder



When your neighborhood is threatened by a zombie, deploy your adorable but scrappy Japanese children and their helpful TV mentor & cameraman. Also, be sure to have tabasco sauce and clingfilm.

I thought Niemöller was fragged by his own associate pastors?

"They came first for the its/it's manglers,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a its/it's mangler.

Then they came for the there/their/they're manglers,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a there/their/they're mangler.

Then they came for the double-negative users,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a double-negative user.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up incorrectly."

Guitar Porn Thursdays: The Gibson 350-T


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I've mentioned my fondness bordering on covetousness of the 1956 Gibson ES-350T natural-finish thinline-hollowbody electric guitar -- largely because it's the sound and the look Chuck Berry had during his classic years at Chess Records. I remember an interview with Andy Summers of the Police where he cited Berry's sound as the platonic ideal for pop-music electric guitar; fat but with an edge. The model's high prices and rarity have kept one out of my hands to try out -- and Leonard Chess' move to record Chuck at a slower speed to make him sound younger on playback makes it difficult to know for sure how much of that sound was in the tape, in the room, in his hands and/or in that guitar, but that's still The Rock & Roll guitar. Here's a brief article about the 1958 model, which foolishly replaced the hot single-coil P-90 pickups for the comparatively boring PAF humbuckers.

And here's Chuck Berry playing a humbucker-loaded, long-neck ES-335 in the mid-1960s:



I think I love his verbal introductions to the songs better than his guitar intros -- but not nearly as much as the Marcelle pompadour and black Italian suit. It's not that much of a coincidence that Chuck lost a lot of his genius and drifted into oldies-circuit limbo at the same time he discovered paisley polyester and stopped dressing like a head-cutting jazzbo from a farm town.

Old Comics Wednesday: CAPTAIN AMERICA #187

It's been so long since I wrote about Frank Robbins' run as artist on CAPTAIN AMERICA that I've lost the thread of the series. Looking online at the writing credits for the Red Skull, Cockblocker arc, I didn't notice that Steve Englehart had been replaced near the end with John Warner.

I'd like to think that this issue used an ingenious way to drop a fill-in issue without it being obvious: The previous issue's climax left the Falcon catatonic, the Red Skull on the loose, SHIELD Agents Peggy and Gabe baffled, and Cap even more weepy than he was before. This issue really does nothing to move any of that story forward, instead serving up a dozen or so pages of Cap walking around in a maze and punching stuff.

To get things rolling, a UFO vacuums Cap up. And why not, really.


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The UFO zips off, taking Cap away from his current storyline to one much more existential -- or pointless, depending on your point of view.

I had planned to stop blogging about these comics after the Red Skull left the story -- I'm a Skull fan, not a Cap fan -- but this panel changed my mind:



Despite a reputation as a "cartoony" artist, Robbins' work was always grounded in a firm, Caniff-inky realism -- which is what makes him using this Termite Terrace-esque device of eyes in a blackout so odd. Much of this issue is supposed to take place in the dark, but the finished panels rarely pull it off nor even attempt to using the same method twice. If I remember correctly, the 1970s was also the decade when decades of refined and proven cinematography methods for filming day-for-night were also thrown out the window in favor of quarter-assed new ways to shoot night scenes for crappy police TV shows and the like -- so maybe this is just another period-specific detail we just wouldn't understand now. Or maybe this is just a sloppy, stupid supercomic.


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At this point, the lights are still on. And Cap, having nothing better to do, marches through this maze to reach the Illuminati symbol in the center and die. One thing this book does get right from the beginning: Cap is deeply, perpetually annoyed by everything he encounters. And, again, why not.

Best "Stupid Comic-Book Moment" of the Month: "A single, indescribable sound ..." "SKRIK"



Who wouldn't be pissed. with his best [black] friend [who happens to be black] in a vegetative state and a UFO dropping him into a maze populated with a pack of monsters who reek and want to beat him up? This, by the way, would make an awesome hook for a sequel to THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS, YOU'VE GOT MAIL or the first season of ALLY MCBEAL.

The lights here are still on.



Again, Cap is so annoyed. If only he could see a video screen of his front lawn, getting trampled by that kid who lives next door collecting his goddamn wiffle ball AGAIN.

From here on, the story is supposed to take place in darkness. See if you can spot any difference.



I know Englehart gets all the props for being The Watergate-Era CAPTAIN AMERICA scribe but, to me, this panel of Cap stepping into a hole in the floor sums everything up in one image. Why Cap would be running around in the dark of a death-trap maze is a question far beyond my pay grade.


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I know it's asking a lot of comics like this, but: Why is Cap happy to stroll through the maze to where his death [or at least answers for him and/or the issue's climax] is promised him at the end, but he can't get away from the trap-door-to-a-vat-of-chemicals fast enough? Would it kill someone to have plonked in a chunk of text saying that there's nothing down in that pit but the death goo, so Cap best get the hell out of there before the door closes? What does a villain do if the hero refuses to play ball? How does Cap know the answers he seeks are at the deathtrap in the middle of the labyrinth and not at the bottom of this pit?


Cap is now so annoyed he's mixing his metaphors.


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At what point in time did comic books made for children drop the bit where their antagonists self-identified as evil? As worse-than-useless as it probably is, I applaud the use of annoyance as a weapon against your enemy; if only there had been a sub-plot cooking for a few issues where Cap kept getting crank phone calls and unwanted pizzas delivered to Avengers Mansion.



Again, it's been dark the whole time. Dark.

That's an interesting pose Robbins puts Cap in, isn't it?

I like this bit of narrative connective tissue in what otherwise reads as a sequence of non-sequiturs instead of a story -- it makes sense that the Red Skull would have had a back-up plan and Cap really has no idea where he is, where the Falcon is or what the hell is going on -- but it would have been better placed on page 6, not page 16.


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Again, it's dark! Cap can't see! AW SHI' -- ROBOTS



Sometimes, when the power goes out, I sit in the dark and wonder if Marvel will ever publish a collection of letter-column letters from fans who later became famous, or if they've already considered such a book but decided to blackmail said letterhacks instead. Just the hush money from Frank Miller to keep his gushy appreciation of THE CAT [or is it NIGHT NURSE?] out of print would probably make Marvel almost as much money as yet another repackaging of his DAREDEVIL run.



This is why using frustration and annoyance as primary devices to defeat your superpowered enemy is a bad idea: Eventually, the guy will just snap and start trashing everything with everything else.


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I dearly love that this is the only panel where the "silent, seething" Cap isn't continuously talking until he gets vapped below. Cap has smashed his way into the control room or somesuch, staffed by old men in hooded smocks toting submachine guns. Wait, what?


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Nobody drew Cap taking a faceplant like Frank Robbins.



This is from this issue's Captain Marvel-starring advertisement for Hostess Twinkies, but I like that: 1.] For the cream-cake-loving bad guy of the page, they picked the man who gave Mar-Vell the cancer that later gives the hero a slow, painful death. 2.] This suggests that Nitro could once again be the catastrophically sloppy powerhouse to kick off one of Marvel's company-wide, torn-from-yesterday's-headlines events: DEEPWATER EVENTHORIZON 2014, wherein Nitro will accidentally rip a hole in the ocean floor that floods the whole Gulf of Mexico into the Negative Zone. A classroom of meticulously multi-ethnic children on a field trip die, Spider-Man gets a new costume, NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN, AGAIN.

Meanwhile, Cap has regained consciousness in the back room of a Pier One outlet store, where he sells the garden ornaments to soccer moms forever. The End.:

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Again, no one drew a twisted, contorted Captain America like Frank Robbins.


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Self-awareness is nice, but there's no reason why this issue didn't have a sub-plot or two. And, again, why not.

The Grammar Nazi, Part One: Obligate vs. Oblige

[Still struggling to work with a busted hand, but I just happened across an old text file of notes I maintained to help keep some writing rules straight in my head by getting them out of my head.]

It's easy to confuse "Obligate" and "Oblige" -- the former sounds like yet another word afflicted with an unnecessary "ate" suffix to sound more official.

"Obligate" is a term of commitment, and "Oblige" is a term of appreciation. The easiest way to recognize the difference is to imagine a cowboy saying "Much obligated, ma'am."

Dinner with cartoonists

At Shandong's on Broadway, following this afternoon's Dave Cooper signing at Cosmic Monkey Comics. Their Hot & Sour Soup is the stuff that food daydreams are made of -- their Kung Pao Chicken was very good -- the prices are extremely reasonable (didn't even charge us a gratuity for having a 10-person table, which would have been fine anyway) and the owners and staff are still new and enthusiastic about their craft. Thumbs up.

Last weekend

Out and about.

The rest of September

Five-bean chicken chili, sage advice and another punchbug for my 64-color collection

092210

I have no idea if these are before or after pictures. I like the colors the lighting makes of the walls, regardless.