Archive for January, 2010


1. Do you watch the Super Bowl? (That’s American football, BTW.) If so, is it for the commercials, the game or the halftime entertainment? Do you have special food for the occasion?

And speaking of halftime, don’t you find it interesting that it is The Who performing when the game is on CBS, since The Who provide the theme songs for all those CSI shows on CBS, such as CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, CSI: Kalamazoo, and CSI: Portland (both the Oregon AND the Maine shows).

If you don’t watch the game, do you have a ritual for that? I had friends who always went to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday.

And those of you outside the United States: can you even access the Super Bowl?

2. Do you know how to write 44 in Roman numerals?

3. Do you have a rooting interest? I’m pulling for the New Orleans Saints, who have NEVER won a Super Bowl, and I can imagine would be a psychological boost to the city post-Katrina. I wouldn’t be devastated if the Indianapolis Colts won, and they are rightly favored.

4. What do think of the Pro Bowl, the all-star game of the NFL, being played the week before the Super Bowl (i.e., today), instead of the week after? Strategically, it makes sense to have an all-star game during the season, as it takes place in most other sports. On the other hand, since the players from the Super bowl won’t be playing the game, and they were the best two teams all year, it’s a bit of a lesser product.

Football 101.
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A couple Who covers – Betty LaVette and the Ukulele Orchestra.


ROG


It my friend Fred’s birthday. Not quite sure what new to say, so let me (mostly) recapitulate:

Fred Hembeck is a comic book artist/cartoonist/storyteller whose narratives often involve superheroes interacting with a character named Fred Hembeck. His early work was compiled in a magazine published by Eclipse Comics, which I remember purchasing at a comic book store in Greenwich Village in New York City in 1979.
Fred’s second collection was published by FantaCo Enterprises of Albany, NY, and I met Fred at the store in February 1980 at a signing, a couple months before I would end up working at FantaCo myself. Eventually, Fred would do seven Hembeck publications with FantaCo, including an expanded version of that first Eclipse edition.

Fred would also grab the attention of both Marvel and DC. For the former, he did the Fantastic Four Roast, with Fred MCing the event. He’s possibly best know, though, for Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe, where Fred…well, what the title says.

During this, Fred and I became friends, with shared passions for the Who, the Beach Boys, and especially the Beatles, and also television and other popular culture.
But when Fred and his wife Lynn Moss moved out of the area, I lost track of him. I know I learned about the birth of their daughter Julie in 1990 secondhand, and quite possibly a couple years after the fact.

But I’d keep tabs on Fred through various sources from time to time.Fast forward to October 2004. I’m at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, where I see Fred’s and my mutual friend, going back to the FantaCo days, Rocco Nigro. Rocco says, “Have you seen Fred’s blog?” Well, no, but in point of fact, I had never seen ANYONE’S blog. I had HEARD of blogging, but like most people who had heard of it but had never seen it, I had poo-pooed it out of hand. When I actually READ Fred’s blog, however, I was captivated. Not only did I read it every day, I read all of the stories he had written from the very beginning of his blog back in January 2003. His voice was right there; it was as though he were talking to me back in the day.
Eventually, I contacted Fred and we established an e-mail friendship. I suggested a couple ideas for some blog pieces, which he used.

I also looked at his blogroll. Having gotten totally out of comics since 1994, I started reading and eventually following comic blogger folks such as Mike Sterling, Greg Burgas and Lefty Brown, all with whom I have some contact to this day.
Then I came across the now late comic book writer Steve Gerber’s blog on Fred’s blogroll and that pushed me into starting my OWN blog on May 2, 2005, which Fred generously plugged more than once that first year or two. So to say that Fred is responsible for me blogging would not be an overstatement.

Somewhere along the way, Fred and I decided to meet. There’s a MidSummer’s party in upstate New York my wife and I have attended frequently. so, for about three years in a row – but not, alas, in 2009 – the day after the party, we’d travel over to Fred & Lynn’s house for the afternoon. Fred and I would speak in some blogging and pop culture shorthand that occasionally left our wives mystified.
Ever since the folks at Image put out THE NEARLY COMPLETE ESSENTIAL HEMBECK ARCHIVES OMNIBUS in the spring of 2008, I’ve seen Fred at various comic book shows, once in Saratoga Springs, but usually in Colonie, both near Albany. Frankly, seeing Fred is the primary reason for going, along with our friend Rocco; I might even have an ADD sighting.

I do wish Fred had time to blog more often. He was a daily guy for a number of years, but he’s only posted six times the first 28 days of this month. But he’s had a good reason: he’s been compiling a new feature on his blog: Hey, Did I Tell You About That MOVIE I Saw Recently? Fred’s probably seen more movies in the past 10 months than I’ve seen in the past 10 years.

The best thing about today is that, for the next five weeks, Fred is older than I am!
So go to his page, buy his book (900 pages for $25; the FantaCo stuff is only about a quarter of it) or purchase some artwork, and then go draw a squiggle on your knee – no, the real Fred does NOT have them.
Happy birthday, effendi!

One of the things Fred and I have done in the 21st Century is to make mixed CDs to exchange. Four that Fred did focus on the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I played them all this week. One interesting song, in no way a reflection of Fred himself, of course, is King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man.


ROG

Busy month coming. Black History Month at church, and I’m doing two adult ed sessions. One will be helping to hone my presentation at the Underground Railroad Conference in Troy, NY at the end of the month.
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The one weekend I won’t be doing BHM stuff, I’ll probably be here.
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Finally gave blood on January 18. I was scheduled to donate two or three times before that, but just didn’t feel up to it. The four months between donations is the longest I’ve gone since I had to pass for a year when I got rabies shots. The weird thing is that twice in a row, I got reminder cards about my donation six to eight days AFTER I was scheduled to donate; unhelpful AND a waste of money.
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I was in the home office. There was this thin book that was falling off the shelf. Turned out to be The Connoisseur’s Guide to the Contemporary Horror Film by the late Chas Balun, an item I hadn’t thought about in years. When I was working at this comic book store called FantaCo, we sold many, many copies of the item. I went over to Steve Bissette’s site to let him know about this, and wouldn’t you know, but that he had just written about Chas and that very booklet! How odd.
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ABC-TV is plugging this new show called The Deep End, about some young lawyers. The voiceover says, “From the network that brought you Grey’s Anatomy”, as though network affiliation is a reason to watch the show. Yet it DOES remind me of Grey’s in that there’s a guy under water; Meredith Grey practically drown a couple seasons ago. I shan’t be watching; hey I got 85% of my DVR capacity used up.

This reminds me of a poster SamuraiFrog wrote about, the text of which was “from the studio that brought you THE PROPOSAL.” as though anyone would go to a film for that reason. Goofy.
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This incredible machine was “built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of Engineering at the University of Iowa. Amazingly, 97% of the machines components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa.
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A resource guide re Haiti.
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Anyone know the shelf life for amoxicillin capsules? Wayne John wanted to know.
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Another SF-found piece, on gay marriage, a satire.
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Thom Wade reminds me why I’m not a Mormon
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The Brand Identity Guru says The Bachelor and Bachelorette Brands Can’t Be More Racist. I don’t watch, but I’d be interested in the thoughts of those who do.
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Was Jack Benny in the movie Casablanca? Mark Evanier doesn’t think so, but he’s not sure.
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What Could Have Been Entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2010 under the law that existed until 1978 . . . Works from 1953.
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Hard to find music and movies.
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Salon finally figured out the joy of the Kennedy Center Honors. See also Kennedy Center Honorees at the White House.
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Scholar Ladies a video response to Single Ladies by Beyonce.
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Finally, the wife is trying to keep the daughter away from aspartame, the stuff in Equal and the other little blue packets, at least in the US, at least it is most of the time. And the stuff shows up in the darnedest places, such as packaged fruit cups one sends the daughter to school with.
But I’ve discovered that the DelMonte fruit cups, e.g., uses sucralose, the substance in Splenda and the other items in the yellow packet. Anyone aware of health issues for children with sucralose?

ROG


I got my Bank of America credit card bill last week. I had had a balance of $54.01, and I paid it off. Or so I thought. I get the bill and I have a balance of $1.50. I figured that, damn, I must have miscalculated the payment, maybe transposed some digits. Nope. I’m now being given the privilege of paying a buck and a half per month as a “Minimum financial charge.” I did not notice this in the ream of papers that BoA had sent me recently to keep me informed of my “protections” in light of the new credit card legislation, before which they hiked my credit card rate. (Which is only one of the reasons I always pay it off in full.)

Now, I never actually applied for a Bank of America card. It’s in my possession because BoA, in its acquisitive phase, bought the bank I DID have a credit card with. So I’m not feeling a great deal of loyality for these folks. Still, I have over a quarter of my credit with them. And, as I’ve noted, all of it available. Well, except for $1.50.

Then last weekend, I watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from earlier in the week. His guest was Jim Wallis, the editor in chief of Sojourners magazine, which is a “progressive Christian commentary on faith, politics and culture. It seeks to build a movement of spirituality and social change.”

Wallis, who was touting his book Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street, explained that the bonuses paid out this year – $150 billion from six banks – could “erase the budget gap in all 50 states”, or prevent or postpone foreclosures until 2012. But these bonuses are a symptom of a larger problem: the erosion of underlying values. He says “we won’t get an economic recovery without a moral recovery” as well.

But what really struck me was his notion that the banks, such as BoA, had been offered grace by the US government, and by extension, by the American people. The response by the large financial institutions, Wallis noted, has been a distinct lack of grace. So, Jim Wallis fired his bank, Bank of America.

With BoA nickle and diming (and six quartering) its customers like that, I can do nothing but the same. Goodbye, Bank of America.

Watch the clip here.

“Higher standards,” indeed.

ROG


Ken Levine, Emmy winning writer/director/producer declared Up In The Air his pick for movie of the year. I saw few enough 2009 movies that I couldn’t say. I will posit, though, that the movie is the best 2009 movie I’ve seen thus far.

What I don’t know is what I can tell you that you don’t already know without revealing spoilers. I’m particularly cognizant of that, because when I saw it back on January 9, right after the opening of the new Delaware Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library, I went home and told my wife what I thought was an obscure piece of information. But the next day, after she went to see the film, she declared that my tiny mention helped her figure something out that I regret that she sussed out.

Surely, you know that the film stars George Clooney as a guy emotionally at arms length, who hates his 43 days a year at home, being much happier being a VIP on planes, car rental places and hotels. His job is to come into towns, fire people because the management of the companies are wussses, and move on. Vera Farmiga is his detached near-equal. Writer/director Jason Reitman had previously made Thank You for Smoking and Juno, both of which I enjoyed, and he has adapted the screenplay from Walter Kirn’s novel of the same name, which I did not read.

You may have read how real out-of-work people were filmed talking about their laid off experiences, not knowing initially that they were being recorded for a movie. It was quite an effective technique. However, J.K. Simmons, a character actor you’ll likely recognize as J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies, Chief Pope from The Closer, or Juno’s dad, is also compelling.

I should mention that Vera Farmiga was featured in a story in the local paper because she lives in not-that-far-away Ulster County, NY.

A review wondered if a family event was necessary for the film, and decided in the end that it was. Whereas I thought that event was critical. (That was vague.)

Ultimately, I think two additional factors, other than the writing, directing and acting, really wowed me. One is that the current economic downturn made this movie just right for its time, much the way The China Syndrome, coming out just before Three Mile Island in 1979, made it very topical. The other thing, probably counter-intuitively, is that while George Clooney played a character named Ryan, he also was George Clooney, noted movie star. And some part of my brain wondered if Ryan would AND George will end up alone; somehow this made it even more interesting.
ROG

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